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Lords of the Middle Dark

(Rings of the Master #1)

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  1,280 ratings  ·  49 reviews
Long ago, the machines had rebelled, wiping out most of humanity and exiling the survivors in widely scattered reservations. Master System ruled unchallenged, the key to breaking its power -- five microchips disguised as gold rings, carefully hidden away. But then an Amerindian called Hawks stumbled across information about the five rings, and suddenly Master System develo ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 357 pages
Published June 1986 by Random House Inc (first published May 12th 1986)
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Average rating 3.83  · 
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 ·  1,280 ratings  ·  49 reviews

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Apr 16, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
This was an entertaining and fast paced pulp sci-fi. Not the best Jack L. Chalker book/series I've ever read, but a fun read none the less.

In the distant past humanity found itself at the risk of extinction by its own hands. Two super nations had arisen and war between the pair was inevitable. With the advanced weapons and super computers thrown into the mix it had the potential to destroy the world. In the hopes saving humanity from itself a crack group of scientists created a super AI called
Aug 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
People seem to love comparing this book to a mashup of various movies, so I will too! The Matrix meets The Lord of the Rings, coupled with an interesting meditation on the dangers of blindly accepting who you are told you should be and following your imposed culture (including superstitions and morals) without question. I liked this a lot more than I thought I would.
Mar 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I haven't read this series in years but it's stuck with me and I absolutely love it. It's a big complicated sci fi treasure hunt in space--our small group of heroes have to find the five gold rings that will unlock Master System, the super computer that controls the destiny of humanity. In this book we meet the key players and they concoct a series of of daring plans that ultimately lead to them meeting up with each other and starting out on their search.

::edit:: Reread this in October 2014. Bec
Billy Roper
Jul 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
The Lord Of The Rings meets Terminator. The best part was the ramped up eugenics programs for space colonization and the resegregation of human races on Earth.
Jan 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
This book is the start of a very good series by Chalker, indeed one of my favorites of his. While set in a future about 1000 years from now, the story begins with the cold war (another persistent trope by Chalker) and scientists who built a 'master computer' and tied it into the defense network. The master computer was tasked with saving humanity from itself, and proceeded in a draconian way to do just that. Robotic scouts were sent into space looking for colony worlds and eventually, people by ...more
Juan Fermin
May 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Of all the books I've read when I was younger, this one definitely stands out the most I was 19 when it first came out and just happened to stumble into it as it was being stocked at my local bookstore. I remember this first Rings of the Master book was absolutely fantastic. You end up with a clear vision of the characters in your head and it's definitely a page turner. When it originally came out, it was slated as a 5 book series and I was SO EXCITED to get book 2 of the Rings of the Master ser ...more
Ian Massey
Jun 24, 2018 rated it liked it
Finally finding time to re-read stuff that I read years ago, with the premise that if it's still on my shelves I must have enjoyed it enough first time around to not get rid.

This was first published in the UK thirty years ago, and it's probably around that time that I read it. Thirty years! That's almost historical now. Three stars this time, but I suspect I enjoyed it more back then. Time, and probably (maybe?) maturity may have coloured my perceptions.

It's basically the start of a fantasy ques
Tilly Wark
Oct 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book was most intriguing. The Matrix is one of my all-time favourite movies, and in many ways, this book and that film are similar. Machines can plug into your mind, and completely rewrite who you are, or implant new skills and languages, all to serve someone else's purpose. At the same time, I was reminded of The Expanse, as a rag-tag group of misfits have acquired a ship by questionable means, and are off to explore the far reaches of space in an attempt to save humanity.

On the short list
Oct 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is the series I was thinking of when I read the Well World series last year.

Although still clunky in several ways, the writing in this book is smoother than the earlier series. It can still be choppy-- dialogue is either curt and modern or overly romanticized. There is an insane amount of information to set up the universe and it's often clumsily handled, one character lecturing another. But for a series launch, there is quite a bit of action.

I'm pretty sure I discovered this author on the
Feb 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
I love this series. I don't often reread books, but this one I read with Tyler when we were first married and now I'm reading it out loud to June. This means it will take us forever to finish, but it is still worth the experience with her. Also, I can edit things while I read. It isn't terrible, but the mother in me still deletes unnecessary evils. :)

The story is so fun, although probably over done throughout science fiction. Super computer takes over the world. Only a handful of people can stop
Matthew Reads Junk
Dec 30, 2018 rated it liked it
This book features the not-quite original premise of computer decides it knows what's best for humanity and enslaves them. The semi-interesting twist, is that Earth humans are reduced to their primitive states while the rest are shipped off to distant worlds and modified to fit. Chalker has such a thing for body modification and transexualism; somebody should write a book on his hang ups.
The characters are pretty one-dimensional who do a lot of giving speeches to explain their reasoning and moti
Dave White
Feb 02, 2021 rated it liked it
it's one of the books that makes an impression that you might not be able to recapture ever again. First time I read it I was in between that awkward phase between adolescent and teen and I though it was the bees knees. But you get on reading different books, exploring genres, even mediums. You grow. And this books stayed the same. And maybe it didn't age too well. Still I like to remember reading it as a good experience, even though reading it now maybe doesn't carry the same feeling. ...more
Nina C
Jan 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I didn't expect to love it. Definitely in the sci-fi genre. The Matrix and Total Recall plus The 5th Element combined. The fact it was published in 1986 makes me wish I had read it younger and owned the paperbacks. Reading it now only made me see it as a movie. An R rated movie that would give Starwars a run for it's money... Nah! Looking forward to the rest of the series. ...more
May 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Very different premise for a sci-fi novel. Unique story, not at all what I expected. After reading the whole series now, it's hard to rate this first one, because the groundwork is so different from the other stories. He blends primitive cultures with an all powerful computer overlord, and a totally new governmental system. Like nothing I've read before. Well worth the read. ...more
Lijadora del Prado
Jun 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Super readable science fiction. Interesting concepts, protagonists to root for. If - as I read in other reviews - this is one of the lesser Chalkers, I'm curious for his other work. ...more
James Frame
Oct 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
My first series of Fantasy !

Loved it
An interesting story, though the female roles now seem quite dated, and obviously written by a man who sees them as sexual objects primarily. The writing is okay, the dialogue a little stiff.
Harold Ogle
Jul 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommendation: a must-read, particularly for fans of British science fiction television.

Review: Although I'm a big fan of Chalker's "Well of Souls" science fiction series, this book sat on my shelf for close to 20 years before I finally got around to reading it last week. For some reason, it just never grabbed me; I'm embarrassed to admit it was probably the cover art, since I never actually tried to read it before last week.

Once I started, though, I was quickly hooked. The book is set in a far
May 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
A future earth, that seems to be stuck in the 1500's. Ruled by a "Master Computer" that was developed long ago, when man was at the brink of destroying himself. Now the computer has devolved mankind into a state of technology (1500's) that can be brutal and savage...but, doesn't have the ability or technology to wipe out the world in the process.

This master computer controls all technology and knowledge in this world. However, it does use some of the "brightest" people from each culture to help
Jan 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: scifi-fantasy, scifi
1986 Grade B-. Book Rm1.
2016 Grade B-.

Basic content warning: Jack Chalker builds some very strange worlds and, to be honest, some rather unpleasant ones. Faint-hearted readers might want to avoid them. In the books I have read, society is controlled by a master system of some kind with most of humanity at various primitive levels. The master systems are very advanced and have the ability to transform people in all ways. This includes complete physical conversion even to animal shapes and complet
Matthew Hester
Mar 29, 2014 rated it it was ok
Before starting, I thought this book was going to be one of two things; a humourous parody of classic fantasy stories, such as Lord of the Rings, or a serious fantasy story with a surprise twist of science fiction origin.
Instead it turned out to be a third; just a regular, terrible science fiction story.
While it surprises me to actually be disappointed by that fact, it doesn't change the fact I am.
I'd say that Chalker missed an opportunity to actually take an interesting path with the story he w
Was going through a few boxes of stored books and came across this series that I read back in the late 1980s, and remembered enjoying, so... Another go-around was long overdue for a classic series.

5 Rings to stop the Master System, a System that has long enslaved humanity to the rules it provides in keeping rational, yet warped, guidelines and stifling mankind in a very domineering check. Clues left by its original makers of over 900 years ago spoke of a backdoor into the beast. Destiny or death
Brian Turner
Mar 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
The opening book for the series "The Rings of the Master".

Humanity has been put under the control of Master System, as a way to prevent them destroying themselves, by the people who created it.
It keeps the majority at a technical level from their history so none of them will be able to create the weapons that nearly destroyed everyone before.
A select few are let into the secret to perform tasks for Master System, and keep an eye on their people.

One of these elite discovers there was a fail-safe
Feb 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Just saw this series and it has been years but I was in the mood... so a marathon re-read of the series ensued... and it was fabulous!
We start out many years in the future... Earth is under control of Master System, a computer. The population has been culled, changed, the universe seeded with our oddly changed descendants, and what is left on Earth has been reduced to limited populations of racially distinct groups isolated in area as well as era.
Each generation any who have the potential to cha
Feb 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
The first thing Master System did was kill the scientists who created it. Tasked with preventing humanity from killing itself off, it reduces Earth to a pre-industrial level and then develops the technology to spread humans to countless worlds. With no time to terraform, humans are changed to match their environments. 5 computer chips imbedded in rings, a children's rhyme and the logical imperative to give humans access to these rings are all that serve as a fail-safe. When a Hyiakutt named Runs ...more
Dec 07, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy, fiction
I enjoyed the concept of this book the matrix feel to it. I also enjoyed the characters created of the chief, his wives, the china girl and friends, & the champions. I didn't enjoy how chalker threw in these sexual items in their I felt like it was done just to make it fit as a pulp scifi book. It distracted vs. added to it.. as if that was all the book came to. I felt the momentum for the first 1/2 then it sorta fizzled into nothing. Yet the first half had me intrested enough that if I actually ...more
Aaron Anderson
My second favorite Chalker series, barely behind Four Lords of the Diamond. It's technically pure sci-fi, but of the variety where the sci-fi is so far ahead, and ridiculous, that it may as well be fantasy. Plus there's a lot of body-morphing, which has a very fantasy feel to it.

It's a "machine's take over" story, kind of like Terminator. But the Master System (this series Skynet) never breaks its base programming to "protect humanity", though the manner in which it enforces this is VERY much ag
Christopher Litsinger
One of those books that I could never possibly like if I hadn't read it when younger.
Pure pulp with all sort of swashbuckling, pulp silliness, and the writing isn't much better: stuff like "she certainly felt the strong cultural ties to her ancestors and their customs and ways very strongly" is sprinkled throughout the book.
This may be the weakest book in the series, which gets a little better (hard to say with a straight face) when it moves into space.
In spite of the awfulness, I have enough no
Ray McCarthy
Reminded me a little of Blakes 7 and also Harry Harrison.

Blake's 7 is earlier
Four 13-episode series of Blake's 7 were broadcast between 1978 and 1981. It was created by Terry Nation, who also created the Daleks for Doctor Who. The script editor was Chris Boucher. The series was inspired by a range of fictional media including Passage to Marseille, The Dirty Dozen, Robin Hood, Brave New World, Star Trek, classic Westerns and real-world political conflicts in South America and Israel.
Apr 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I highly recommend this entire series of books. I have read, and re-read the series, worn out a half-dozen paperback copies, and have my current paperback copies inside of shrink-wrapped bags. Now I enjoy the series on Kindle and Audible.
This series, along with many others, is part of the literature that shapes my own writing, world building, and character generation. Mr. Chalker, thank you for creating such a wonderful series of books.
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Besides being a science fiction author, Jack Laurence Chalker was a Baltimore City Schools history teacher in Maryland for a time, a member of the Washington Science Fiction Association, and was involved in the founding of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society. Some of his books said that he was born in Norfolk, Virginia although he later claimed that was a mistake.

He attended all but one of the W

Other books in the series

Rings of the Master (4 books)
  • Pirates of the Thunder (Rings of the Master, #2)
  • Warriors of the Storm (Rings of the Master, #3)
  • Masks of the Martyrs (Rings of the Master, #4)

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